Bastards, from the once reckonable Claire Denis of Beau Travail, is close to appalling. Five to 10 years ago, this French filmmaker was on the Most Wanted list. We wanted everything she did. There was a dark, muscular poetry about her visions of man and woman at war, with themselves and each other, in a world of changing or convulsing values.
Now it has all gone dim, parodic and cuckoo-macho. Star Vincent Lindon – in Denis films a kind of catatonic Jean-Paul Belmondo – is the ship’s skipper coming ashore to sort out a brother-in-law’s suicide, an imperilled mistress (Chiara Mastroianni) and a vice ring run by someone very nasty, very two-dimensional and very “we-need-a-message-about-a-corrupt-and-corrupting world”. I believed little. What I did believe I sought in vain to be moved or engaged by.